Revisiting 90 Minutes’ Nightmare League

scan0003During the 1990s, 90 Minutes ran an annual Nightmare League.

Think of it as an alternative to Fantasy Football.

Readers of the defunct magazine – instead of choosing the best players in the Premier League – picked who they thought were the worst players, and competed in regional and occupational leagues.

Premier League footballers were ranked on various statistics.

For example, they would be awarded three points for every goal that they scored and four points for every clean sheet kept by a defender or goalkeeper.

However, if they scored an own goal or received a red card, they would be deducted five points. Meanwhile, yellow cards would be rewarded with minus three points.

Also, whenever a defender or goalkeeper conceded a goal, they would score a single minus point.

And, for every time a midfielder or striker played a minimum of 45 minutes without scoring, they would be deducted one point.

Therefore, the worst players would attain a significant minus score at the end of the season and the readers, who had the lowest marks, would win their regional or occupational league.

And, while the magazine published a “worst players of ’95/96” list, they never picked a Nightmare League XI.

This was surprising, considering that they published “The Chaos Theory XI”, “Hoddle’s First 11 – the players that could figure in the new England manager’s plans” and the “Nightmare Team of the tournament [from Euro 96]” during the summer of 1996.

However, after scouring through old editions of 90 Minutes, here are their worst players from the 1995/1996 Premier League season.

GK: Keith Branagan

Club: Bolton Wanderers
Nightmare League points total: minus 40

Surprisingly, goalkeepers were a rarity in the Nightmare League.

For instance, only three other goalkeepers scored less than minus ten points: Sheffield Wednesday’s Kevin Pressman with minus 22 points, Leeds United’s John Lukic with minus 15 points and Nottingham Forest’s Mark Crossley with minus 11 points.

But, after conceding 59 goals in 31 games, Keith Branagan was easily the worst goalkeeper in this league and joint 20th worst player overall.

LB: Alan Kimble

Club: Wimbledon
Nightmare League points total: minus 43

Although Wimbledon finished 14th in the 1995/1996 Premier League, they had defensive problems following Warren Barton’s move to Newcastle United.

The Dons conceded 70 league goals and only Bolton Wanderers had an inferior defensive record.

Therefore, it should not surprise you that Alan Kimble is in this XI – after scoring minus 43 points and grabbing a joint 14th placed spot overall.

His form was so bad, Kimble’s only realistic contender was Sheffield Wednesday’s right-footed left back Ian Nolan with minus 37 points.

CB: Jimmy Phillips

Club: Bolton Wanderers
Nightmare League points total: minus 58

The Nightmare League was full of centre backs and the worst of them was Jimmy Phillips.

The second-worst player in this league was one of just six players to score minus 50 points or less.

No one can argue about the fact that he was one of the main reasons why Bolton struggled so much in their first Premier League campaign.

CB: Paul Williams

Club: Coventry City
Nightmare League points total: minus 49

Paul Williams’ first season in the Premier League, after his move from Derby County, won’t be remembered for the right reasons, and the Sky Blues conceded 60 league goals during the 1995/1996 season.

Bolton’s Chris Fairclough was only two points ahead and, if he had played more than 24 games, Wimbledon’s Alan Reeves could have nicked this spot after scoring minus 42 points.

Queens Park Rangers’ Steve Yates, meanwhile, also came close with minus 46 points.

RB: Kenny Cunningham

Club: Wimbledon
Nightmare League points total: minus 78

Kenny Cunningham may have gained some plaudits over the years but, according to the Nightmare League, he was the worst player by far, after being minus 20 points behind Jimmy Phillips.

Interestingly, two other right backs were in the top six worst players: QPR’s David Bardsley and Sheffield Wednesday’s Peter Atherton, who both scored minus 50 points.

LM: Alan Thompson

Club: Bolton Wanderers
Nightmare League points total: minus 39

Alan Thompson may have played for England in 2004, but he was this league’s worst left-footed winger. This was after being placed 23rd in the league with minus 39 points.

However, this does not come as a surprise because, after scoring Bolton’s first league goal of the season against Wimbledon on 19 August 1995, he failed to score in his other 25 appearances.

And, as competition for this position was so scarce, Thompson’s closest rival was Newcastle’s David Ginola with minus 31 points.

CM: Garry Flitcroft

Club: Manchester City
Nightmare League points total: minus 54

Another relegated club means the inclusion of another footballer in the Nightmare League.

This time it’s Garry Flitcroft, the worst midfielder and third-worst player in this league.

90 Minutes couldn’t even spell his name correctly in the final listings.

CM: Barry Horne

Club: Everton
Nightmare League points total: minus 47

This was actually a tie, as two other central midfielders had accrued the same amount of points.

But, as Barry Horne had played less Premier League football in the 1995/1996 season than Coventry City’s Kevin Richardson and Middlesbrough’s Jamie Pollock, Everton’s lowest ranked player gets the final central midfield spot.

Horne was the joint eight-worst player in this league – but the aforementioned trio faced tough competition from Chelsea’s Dennis Wise (minus 45 points), Everton’s Joe Parkinson (minus 43 points), Aston Villa’s Andy Townsend (minus 42 points) and Manchester United’s Nicky Butt (minus 41 points).

RM: Steve Lomas

Club: Manchester City
Nightmare League points total: minus 50

There was a real lack of right-sided midfielders in this league; therefore, Steve Lomas is the midfielder that best fits this slot.

Lomas was the joint fourth-worst player in this league and, along with Flitcroft, Manchester City had the two lowest ranked midfielders.

The only right-footed winger that came close was Coventry’s Paul Telfer, who was placed 24th and scored minus 39 points.

FW: Mark Hughes

Club: Chelsea
Nightmare League points total: minus 40

With the potential to score lots of goals, it was difficult to score lowly in the Nightmare League. Even Forest’s Andrea Silenzi scored minus six points.

However, due to his 11 yellow cards and one red card, Mark Hughes is the second-worst striker in this league.

During a difficult first season at Chelsea, the Welsh forward only scored eight league goals in 30 games and, if he hadn’t scored four goals in his final four games of the season, a joint 20th placed finish could have been beyond him.

FW: Trevor Sinclair

Club: Queens Park Rangers
Nightmare League points total: minus 43

Some people could suggest that Southampton’s Matthew Le Tissier should be in this XI, after scoring minus 38 points.

But, during the 1995/1996 season, he often played in midfield, as Gordon Watson and Neil Shipperley were Dave Merrington’s preferred strike partners in a 4-4-2 formation.

What’s even more surprising, though, is that Trevor Sinclair bags this final spot after a joint 14th placed finish.

Although he has played on both sides of the wing, Sinclair was regularly utilised as a striker during the 1995/1996 season.

90 Minutes, meanwhile, claimed in July 1996 that “he insists on playing down the middle of the park”, making it more likely that some saw him as a forward in the mid-1990s.

Despite being named in five consecutive England squads, during the build up to Euro 96, Sinclair only scored two league goals and failed to score in his final 26 games of the season.

The only real pretenders to the strikers’ throne were Bolton’s John McGinlay and Wimbledon’s Dean Holdsworth, who both scored minus 20 points.


1 Response to “Revisiting 90 Minutes’ Nightmare League”

  1. January 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Lots of forgotten names here remembered again. As always you wonder whatever happened to these players.
    Going to look them up now..

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